Category Archives: Memoirs

Photographs and memories

Thinking about early memories, I realize how photographs have a big impact on what I remember. There are some photographs of me, about 1 year old, stout in a (duffel?) coat, a coat with those oblong buttons that go through loops on the outside. My hair is still soft and short. I am holding the big teddy I got for my first birthday or Christmas. A black and white photo. I am outside, in the snow, going to Granny’s house in Daddy’s car, with a teddy nearly as big as I am. But I am holding it very seriously. That is my task at the moment. Move through the snow with the teddy.  

Do I remember this happening? I feel like I do. How do I know where I was going? I suppose Mum probably told me when I saw the photo. Anyway, where else would I have been going? It was a big occasion, though. The newness of the bear, all fluffy and soft. I feel like I can smell that new furriness.  He is still in my cupboard now, that bear, here in
Darwin. I don’t think I have anything else from that time, but he is there. Flat. Stitched up at the back with red thread. A yellowish grey colour, he folds in the middle. Probably smells a bit mouldy right now, with all the rain we’ve been having – but that’ll wear off in the Dry Season.

He is still important, now, as he was then, when I was making a big trip. Going in the car. During the week, Mum and I went to Granny’s – and everywhere else – on the buses.  

Although now I remember – when I was very little, we lived with Granny, in

Tates Avenue

. I wonder when we moved to

Park? I’ll have to ask. It was a big step. I will write about that, too. Where you live in
Belfast is seen as a significant identifier. But my parents didn’t fit in with the crowd. As always, they lived and did things in their own way.


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A bird of chaos

I remember being in the kitchen of our flat in
Park in
Belfast, Northern Ireland, where I was born. I am sitting at the table, my feet dangling down from the chair. Suddenly there is something noisy and unusual happening. Beating swirls through the air, sudden movement in front, behind, all around. What is it?

“Oh, a bird!” my mother says.  

A bird.  But birds are quiet things. I see them outside. They fly silently, they hop, they peck, they fit smoothly into the nature of things.  

Now here is a bird of chaos, all wrong, just because it is in the wrong place. I wonder at it. I am delighted and a little bit afraid. The random dashing movement through the air is hard to see. It is hard to understand. A bird? This is not what that word means!  

My mother runs around the kitchen as the bird swoops and dives and bumps. Why is she doing that? It is exciting and puzzling.  

And then it’s quiet again.  

“It’s gone,” says my mother.  The kitchen is just a kitchen. 

This is what I ‘remember’ as being my earliest memory.  It’s hard to know what is an early memory: sequence and order not being that significant in the mind of a child. How old was I? In what I see, I feel small, everything else is big. Part of why I identify it as being so early is the sense of wonder and surprise that something I had definite associations with was ‘being’ something else, it was a world view re-making.

So my earliest memory is of surprise, curiosity, wonder at the world and how it changes.


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